Just say… ‘yes’

This week see the release of the second of Michael J. Ward’s innovative and immersive game books, DestinyQuest 2: the Heart of Fire. We at Gollancz are hugely excited to be publishing this series, which takes the classic Fighting Fantasy gameplay of our youth and updates it for the Warcraft generation. Today we have a blog from Mike on how the series came about, tomorrow we’ll give you the prologue for free, and Thursday (publication day!) will see a rather different sort of competition…

I’m Arthur Dent. No really, I am. If I had a choice, I think I’d permanently live in my pyjamas and dressing gown, bony ankles sticking out of a pair of comfortable slippers. As a freelancer, it’s easy to become an Arthur Dent because I don’t need to dress for an office, I don’t need to go out in public unless it’s an absolute emergency – running out of milk for instance, or indeed a bulldozer coming along to flatten my home. On more than one occasion, I have surprised a number of my neighbours and most of the local delivery force by answering the door at some inexcusable hour  of the afternoon still in the Arthur Dent dressing gown. Often it works well enough to give ‘a little cough’ and plead illness. That usually dispels the frowns or the worried shake of the head.

I suppose, for someone who spends their day writing about choices – giving readers multiple pathways through a complex labyrinthine gamebook – my choices of late have become rather simple. Like I said, an adventure has become a ten minute walk to the local supermarket to stock up on supplies. But even that can be done online if the thought of shaving off the four-week growth of beard (so as not to scare the general public) is just too much to bear.

Obviously, I’m exaggerating somewhat. (It was a three-week growth of beard…) But what I have been thinking of a lot lately is ‘choice’. Do I feel I have a choice today to something different or shall I fall back on the behaviour patterns that have almost become predetermined? What constitutes a meaningful choice? Is it simply about saying yes, like Danny Wallace in ‘Yes Man’?

I remember reading that book about six/seven years ago. It actually had a profound impact on my life. In ‘Yes Man’ Danny Wallace spends a year saying ‘Yes’ to everything, even if his gut instinct was to say ‘No’. The real revelation of the book was that, by making choices that he wouldn’t otherwise make, he ended up freeing himself of all of his self-imposed restraints and those associated with collective thinking, and ‘threw himself to the fates’. His adventures turned out to be life-transforming and were hugely inspirational to me.

I made the decision, after finishing the book, to follow a similar path. To my friends’ and work colleagues’ bemusement  I became a ‘yes’ man. I started to question the choices I would normally make and try and push myself in a new direction, embrace new experiences. Within a year (*), I had written a book, adopted a cat, flown in a helicopter, attended three weddings (and a stranger’s funeral), spent Halloween at a masked ball in Romania (and appeared, bizarrely, on Romanian television as part of Miss Transylvania– and no, I wasn’t competing!), got trapped in a lift with a frisky female police officer, shared a telephone box in Cardiff with five other people,  and slept under the stars on a Malaysian island, with two backpackers and a monkey we nicknamed ‘Yoda’.

(*) Actually, if we’re being pedantic, it was probably around 14 months, but give me some artistic licence, eh?

A lot of that may be par for the course for some people, but for a natural Arthur Dent it was quite a shock to the system. Obviously, real-life and work commitments quickly took over once again, and it became impossible to pursue the ‘yes’ man indefinitely. But what those months taught me was that choice is the most powerful  tool we possess – and actually, we rarely exercise it as much as we think we do.

The final act of my ‘yes man’ phase was to give up my job and go freelance – something I had wanted to do for a while but could always find a compelling excuse not to. Choices have consequences (in this case,  not having money and a roof over my head being two of the most prominent!). But I took the decision anyway (after all, I had to say ‘yes’) – and it was the right one. I was lucky enough to find regular work and also have the time to develop a new book series. That series happens to be DestinyQuest – books about choices. Funny really.

So, yes, I am typing this in my Arthur Dent dressing gown (perhaps not an image you want in your heads…), and later I may go crazy and hit the local supermarket (beard intact). Not exciting choices, I’ll admit, but they’re my choices – for now.

What will you do today? Will you say ‘yes’ to something you wouldn’t ordinarily do?  Maybe even buy a copy of DestinyQuest: The Heart of Fire and give a gamebook a chance. Who knows, you might even like it.

Take a chance. Just say ‘yes’!


(Offers currently being accepted for dressing-gown modelling work.)